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In Michael Bay's Transformers, we see that the Transformers have the ability to instantly duplicate and become a vehicle.

Aside from it showing them choosing their initial disguises, Bumblebee does this in the tunnel when he's upgrading to a newer model of car for Sam.

Yet later on in Dark of the Moon, when there is trouble in Chicago, we see them driving from a military base in their car/truck forms to get to the issue.

Is it ever explained why they permanently keep their disguises? Couldn't they just copy the jet aircraft on the base to decrease their travel time while also giving them a combat advantage when they get there?

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    Wow. I can't believe someone finally found a gaping plot-hole in a Michael Bay movie! – Chris Jaynes May 17 '12 at 21:44
  • With respect to turning into a Jet wouldn't that depend on what equipment the transformer in question has. So only a "robot" that can fly, could transform into a "jet" that could fly? – AidanO May 18 '12 at 8:07
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    I'm not familiar with a lot of the newer Transformers works, (except for the Michael Bay films) but I don't recall the old transformers ever changing their "vehicle mode". If they did, it certainly wasn't as easy as Michael Bay has portrayed it. I think his films are a deviation from existing canon, though I'm happy to be corrected. – Iszi May 18 '12 at 12:27
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    There are some that can change into multiple things, at least in some of the stories, "triple-changers" as they were called. One example was Astrotrain. – eidylon May 18 '12 at 17:45
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    In the 1980's cartoon/comics, the transformers originally had alternate, more futuristic vehicle forms back on Cybertron. The Autobots left on their spaceship called the Ark, the Decepticons hunted them down and boarded them, there was a huge battle, and the Ark crashed into Mount Hood in dinosaur times, knocking everyone offline. In the 1980's, earthquakes caused the Ark to reactivate. It set to rebuilding the transformers, sending out probes to determine the forms of the local "wildlife", so that it could mimic them. It then rebuilt the transformers using these forms, and revived them. – Doug Warren Sep 11 '15 at 15:24
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A transformer's alternate mode (common name for vehicle mode) has to fit within certain boundaries, and they use holograms and other minor tricks to make this alternate mode look like something similar to the world they're on.

As such, a transformer with a car altmode may be able to choose what kind of car within a range of cars he transforms into, but he can't become a truck, a train, a ship or a plane.

Transformers are Robots in Disguise. They don't transform into an exact replica of their altmode, they transform into something close enough for them to put on a disguise to complete the package.

Q. At the BotCon 2008 Hasbro Commentary viewing of the live-action Transformers film, an early exchange between Hasbro and Michael Bay was brought up: Michael Bay questioned the logic of damaged Transformers turning into pristine vehicles, and the Hasbro response to him was along the lines of "the Transformers don't actually turn into the vehicles, they're just mimicking them". Is this concept something that the "movie" universe is still operating under?

A. Transformers across all of our expressions 'mimic' vehicles. They are "robots in disguise" even when they are in vehicle mode. The inherent ability of Transformers to convert their bodies from space to space combined with their ability to create holograms fulfills the illusion of a pristine car in vehicle mode.

As always, we try to remain true to the characters and put out the best toys as all possible at all times.

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    It's also about physical space: Optimus Prime can't transform into a motorcyle or something, he's too massive. :P – Gabe Willard May 17 '12 at 23:10
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    @GabeWillard I always thought it was -entirely- about physical space. I never had the impression that, say, a truck-style Transformer was unable become a bus of the same size. – Izkata May 17 '12 at 23:33
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    Mass and volume are two different things. Optimus should be able to transform into a very heavy Prius. Notice how the cube could 'transform' from a very large cube into a very small cube and be carried around by a human? – Morgan May 19 '13 at 15:57
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    @Morgan - In continuity, Transformers can't do what the cube can do. The cube is kind of, er, magical in that sense. (This was stated in an interview somewhere - the cube can size-change, and other Cybertronian beings can't, because of the cube's nature.) Optimus could not transform into a Prius. Unless it was a very large Prius. – lunchmeat317 Jun 29 '13 at 0:11
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For continuity's sake. From a storytellers point of view, I suppose the filmmakers chose to limit the disguise to generally one (bumblebee's upgrade does not count), because they know that the audience will associate the disguise of the transformer with the transformer itself. In other words, the character of the transformer is his disguise, which should not change from plot point to plot. To do that could risk losing the audience's attachment to the character. Took me three years to come up with that.

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    Welcome to SFFSE! Although a good out-of-universe theory, unless otherwise stated questions are generally seeking an in-universe answer – Often Right Sep 11 '15 at 8:49

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